TW – discussion of consent/mistreatment of women
Instagram – Women that have recently worked with Harry have shared high praise for his behavior, and one gesture in particular, that does seem to be relatively scarce in today’s society.
I’m sure all of us have heard the reinterpretation of Otis Redding’s song “Respect” by the one-and-only Aretha Franklin. Since its release in 1967 it has become an anthem for anyone who has ever felt marginalized, but most prominently, it has uplifted and empowered girls and women. It unfortunately isn’t uncommon to hear about the undermining of female dignity and autonomy, especially in the entertainment industry.
What else isn’t rare? Hearing Harry Styles having non-objectifying views of and towards women. Evident all the way back to his days in One Direction, even when the media began to give him a “womanizer” persona, his interviews and actions over the past thirteen years show him exalting and complimenting women’s personalities instead of their looks, standing up for their rights, and treating them with dignity. Women that have recently worked with Harry have shared high praise for his behavior, and one gesture in particular, that does seem to be relatively scarce in today’s society. I find it fitting that he was even given a nickname for it by some of his industry colleagues that is perfectly summarized by the word “respect,” and Franklin is known as the “Queen of Soul”: “Consent King.”
While the definitions and legal aspects may vary by circumstance, setting, etc., these are the most fundamentally established characteristics of consent:
-Confirming a mutual agreement
-Periodic reestablishment of the agreement
Consent should be communicated freely, clearly, and affirmatively between all those involved to help create an atmosphere of understanding and respect.
In a 2020 Instagram Live interview, “Watermelon Sugar” model Ephrata spoke about her experience with being on set and filming the music video with Harry. “The people were telling him to touch my hair and play with it and he was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait, pause – can I even touch your hair? Is that even okay?’” she said. She responded, “Yeah, that’s so nice. That was really sweet.” Aalany McMahan, another model that appeared in the video, agreed and reiterated that Harry was a big proponent of consent, to which Ephrata exclaimed “consent king!”
In 2019 Harry hosted the comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL). One of the most popular and entertaining skits that he starred in was about a childbirth class where he and actress/comedian/writer Heidi Gardner portrayed an amusing Icelandic couple that was expecting triplets. The sketch included two seemingly ordinary pregnant American couples alongside Harry and Gardner, with the husbands supporting their wives by rubbing their shoulders, etc. A major theme that added to the comedic value was that Harry and Gardner were depicted as “overly-intimate” compared to the other couples.
Gardner revealed in an interview in 2021 that during their three rehearsals before the show, Harry never touched her shoulders. She joked that she was getting a “complex” that there was some sort of problem with them or that Harry didn’t like them. Since he needed to touch her as part of the sketch, Gardner asked Harry if he would, to which she said he responded, “Of course I’ll touch your shoulders Heidi, but you never invited me to touch your shoulders.” Gardner’s response? “You’re such a gentleman.”
During the 2022 “Late Night Talking” music video shoot, Harry was filmed in multiple beds with multiple people in multiple locations. As seen in behind-the-scenes footage, Harry refused to get into bed with one of the female extras until she gave her approval. He gestured to a spot on the bed beside her – a silent question that asked for her consent – to which she nodded in acceptance. He then approached the bed to begin filming the scene with her.
I realize some people, especially outside of the fandom, may look at these examples and think “behavior like that isn’t special/everyone is supposed to show that kind of respect, etc.” Valid thoughts, but I believe we all are aware that, unlike what we see here with Harry, consent is not being established or honored in many situations. There have been countless stories in 2023 alone regarding accusations and even confirmations of the mistreatment of women (in particular) inside and outside of the entertainment industry.
When it comes to Harry, his demeanor is not only special because he asks for consent, but also because he goes out of his way to show everyone as much love and compassion as possible. In a way, he kind of breaks the mold. He not only empowers women (and others) with his positivity, support, and assurance, but his approach and manners inspire others to reciprocate the same behavior and kindness.
Ephrata mentioned in the interview that she “decided to play by Harry’s rules” and asked him if it was okay to kiss him on the cheek after she was told to by directors. “They told me to kiss him, and I felt like I had to ask, too. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ and he was like, ‘Yes, go ahead!’” Ephrata and McMahan both emphasized that consent (along with Harry doing other little things like checking on everyone to make sure they weren’t cold, etc.) helped make the shoot enjoyable and relaxed because everything was natural. Nothing felt forced.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T – it’s spelled out in the song for us – seven letters that form a word with so much meaning. Four letters that don’t form a word but spell out something just as meaningful? TPWK. Harry personifies both – respect and kindness. He’s a king – of many hearts, and of course, consent. We can all agree on that.